About Danacea

Social media and events at Forbidden Planet; novelist for Titan Books, first title 'ECKO RISING' due September 2012. Mum, Cyclist, Geek, Gamer, Warrior, Art Toy Freak.

Children of Artifice – Cover Reveal!

And here it is – the beautiful cover for Children of Artifice. Art by Sarah Anne Langton, novel published this summer by Fox Spirit Books.

Love how Sarah’s picked up on some of the alchemical/metallurgical themes of the story, and on the slightly decaying feel of the city itself. Really proud of this little book – it’s an urban fairy tale, a science fantasy, and it’s a very different beast to Ecko (less swearing, for a start) and to the hell-for-leather combat stuff that I normally write. And the story that weaves between the two central characters (forgive me blowing my own for a moment) is one of the single finest pieces of plotting that I’ve ever managed to contrive.

That – and there’s something really quite special about two people falling in love. Particularly when they’re really not meant to!

Synopsis on the Fox Spirit website – with special thanks to Kim Lakin-Smith and Tej Turner!

Orks Vs. Nuns with Guns – Writing for the Black Library!

Writing licensed fiction is a pain in the arse.

You have a great premise. You have a headful of imagery. You know your story and your characters and your bad guys and WHOOOOSH! – off you go…

But it’s difficult. There’s a lot to learn and there’s one HELL of a lot of canon (and cannon) in the 40k universe. Thanks to long years of gaming, I’m familiar with the basics, but even after all those rolling dice, I’d only touched the smallest corner of the Emperor’s cloak.

Writing for 40k has meant a lot of work, a lot of notes, and a LOT of reading. It’s meant highlighter pens in an assortment of colours, and a lot of learning from textbooks, old Schola. And it’s very much been an exercise in both confidence and patience. You write for a license, you can’t write five lines without stopping because you don’t know something. What’s this thing called? Where did it come from? How many rounds does it fire? What’s it made out of? And how do you say ‘this chickenshit outfit’ in High Gothic?

But: it’s also a LOT of fun – writing Orks vs. Nuns with Guns is about as close to pure self-indulgence as it gets. And, quite apart from all my years in armour, the skirmish tactics learned in the cadets and the TA, and the scatter of Latin (mostly choral, but hey) picked up at school, it’s given me the chance to write almost pure action. And an opportunity like that is just too good to pass up.

So: here’s ‘MERCY’, my tale of the Sisters of Battle. And it comes with a big thank you to Lottie and the Black Library for the chance, and to Sister Alec and Sister Superior Jim for their help. And hopefully, Sister Augusta and the Order of the Bloody Rose will have some more adventures after this one.

From the wrath of the editor, our Emperor, deliver us…

Da Orks by A-u-r-e-l on DeviantArt



Children of Artifice – Publication News!

Over the bloody MOON to be able to announce that Fox Spirit Books will be publishing my novel ‘Children of Artifice’ later this year.

Artifice has been a very personal journey. One central character draws on my experiences with my mother and with the relationships of my past – I guess he’s about as close to ‘me’ (a younger ‘me’, perhaps, and necessarily stylised) as anything I’ve ever created. The other is a concept that I’ve been wrestling with for a very long time – he’s been the subject of various forms of exploratory fiction, on and off, for many years, and I’ve never been able to get him quite right…  until now.

It’s not some sweeping saga – I kinda did that. It’s a love story with a sharp edge, an urban fairy tale. It’s a science fantasy with a metallurgical bite and a volcanic undertone. It’s about barriers and expectations, and what happens when you break them; its about family, and why it matters, and what happens when it goes wrong. And, (going to toot my own for a minute, here), I’m really rather proud of the intricate weave of its story.

I’m also really, very pleased that it’s being published by Fox Spirit Books, where I think it’s found the right spiritual home!

2017: A Year In Review

It’s that time of year again. Mountains climbed, achievements unlocked, the ubiquitous ‘stuff wot I done and learned’ post…

Not this year, thank fuck. I’ve done a lot less. I’ve certainly not done any more of that ‘fuck-me-that’s-steep’ learning curve malarkey. I’ve been settled in my own home, at last, and it’s been… quiet.

I’ve stressed a lot less, chilled out a lot more, and everything’s so normal it’s become almost routine.

Rick and Morty Day

I’ve watched my son become a teenager, learned to sit still and enjoy the simple things, reminded myself of all the books and music that I used to love and had somehow lost along the way.

Thanks to a curveball thrown by the internet, I’ve found new family, and – just when I was ready to throw in the creative towel for good – I’ve been offered a couple of wonderful and slightly surprising author-type opportunities that will come more to light in the months to come. (Insert ‘squee!’ here).


It feels like a fallow year, a year to look round and take stock, if you like.  A year to remind myself who I am, why I do my job, and what I actually get out of my writing.

When you have a growing child and a hectic schedule, and so, so many terrifying things that you have to sort out and control and achieve and on and on and on… it’s so very easy to lose yourself in the chaos of it all and to just forget what actually makes you happy.


I get that we all have to be grown-ups, and it’s important to remember that we can do this stuff if we have to… but it’s been a wonderful, almost incredulous, feeling to be able to let it all go.

Polzeath Sunset

My Mother, and The Blackest of Dogs

This is a very, very long post, and a deeply personal one, and it really may not be your thing – there are no clever pictures or gags. I’ve been wrestling with writing something about my Mother’s death for two and a half years, and, because of the complex nature of our relationship, it’s not something I’ve been able to face. Similarly, I’ve spent the afternoon wondering whether I should make this public, because it may not be received well in some places. But, there are two sides to every story, and my Mother had no hesitation in telling everyone that I was ‘not her daughter’, over and over again, so I feel it’s only right to say this stuff at last.

You can stop reading now if you like, that’s fine. But if you do want to know the rest, then you’d better go get some tea.

My Mother was a deeply unhappy person; she had a desperate and constant need for emotional reassurance. It was the product of a hostile childhood, utterly tragic, and a terrible thing to behold. And sadly, it wasn’t something that she ever managed to grow past – it was programmed in, as these things inevitably are. She suffered from appalling, lifelong depression, and she deserved all the pity, and all the love, and all the support, in the world. However, that love was very difficult to offer, because her depression came with a rather nasty side effect.

In short, she needed someone to blame. When I was little, my Father filled that position (long story not being told here). Once he’d gone, however, there was a vacancy. And then I reached thirteen and had the temerity to grow up – I went to a public school (which made me grow up very quickly), I went through puberty and got difficult and grumpy. Suddenly, to her horror and grief, I was no longer a sweet and pliable (and very quiet) little girl. I was a teenager.

And that was where they started: the judgements, the accusations. All the bitterness that she’d aimed at my Father started to come at me. It started small: telling me that I’d ‘rejected’ her, that ‘I didn’t love her’, that ‘I’d turned away from her, broken our elastic’. And I was only a teenager, and I didn’t understand. It was upsetting, and unkind. I tried, in my small way, to explain to her that I loved her but she didn’t listen. I don’t think she could. And in the fullness of time, as her depression and overthinking slowly picked at it and picked at it and it swelled out of all rationality, it grew into ‘you rejected me because I sent you to Ardingly’. And I tried, again, to explain to her that this was not the case, had never been the case. Eventually, as I grew older, it became, ‘you rejected me, because I sent you to Ardingly, where you were bullied’, (actually, the bullying was fairly minor). And I kept trying to make her understand that this had never happened, that I had just grown up, no different to any other child. It was just puberty, nothing more.

It sounds like such a little thing, until I tell you that she kept this up for more than thirty years – telling me, relentlessly, obsessively, over and over and over, that I’d ‘rejected’ her when I was thirteen, that I ‘didn’t love her’, round and round the same track, again and again and again. And it didn’t matter what I did, or said, or how hard I tried to make her understand that I was just a teenager, doing what teenagers do – she was utterly convinced that I’d turned on her, and she just never got past it. Calm explanations were eventually met with red-faced screaming, ‘You never listen, Dan, why don’t you listen, Dan, you’re not hearing me, Dan, you’re awful to me, Dan.’ If I got upset or cried (and it was pretty horrible), she’d scream abuse at me, or spit at me, in utter contempt, that I was ‘faking it’. (I couldn’t cry in front of her, even when she was dying, without her bitterly flinging the same accusation). And if I got angry – well, Gods forbid, that just justified her belief. In my late teens and early twenties, when I came back to Oxted to visit her, this was the sole topic of conversation on every single evening we spent together. Round and round and round.

No, that’s not an exaggeration.

This is only the beginning – it’s the backdrop, if you like – and this part of the story ends in two ways. At twenty-six or twenty-seven, I was at a small dinner party in her flat, and she started the ‘You rejected me, you hate me’ speech in front of her guests, two people I’d never met before. And I asked her to stop. And she kept going, telling these people (in deadly seriousness), ‘My awful daughter, she’s been so dreadful, she doesn’t love me, you know’. I asked her, a second time, to stop. But she still kept going – entering the second phase of the conversation, which was to turn it around and ask for justification, ‘But I had to send her to that school, it was an amazing opportunity, I was working, it was all such a terrible struggle’. (All of which is true – it was an amazing opportunity, and she did work very hard, and struggle). One of the guests, his name was Rob, (and I remember it very clearly), then asked her to please change the subject. The dinner came to an awkward end, and, once they’d gone, she turned on me with such incredible, vitriolic anger that she absolutely took my breath away. She vented at me, ‘You’re an embarrassment, you embarrassed me in front of my friends!’, and I just stood there, stunned.

It was the first time that I’d understood something fundamental: that my Mother didn’t just say all this stuff to me. That she went round telling everybody about ‘her awful daughter’, that ‘she didn’t have a daughter’, that I ‘didn’t love her’. Telling people about this terrible ‘rejection’, and all about this depression-conjured Carnival Grotesque that bore my name and face… I didn’t speak to her for quite some time, after that.

The second end to this part of the story came many, many years later, when my son reached his nines and tens. It was history repeating itself, and one of the most tragic and painful things I’ve ever seen – watching my Mother break her own heart, and being powerless to stop it happening. I watched her undermine her love for her beloved and adored grandson in exactly the same way as she’d done with me. I watched her grief and pain and anguish as it all happened again, the same exact pattern: ‘He’s rejected me, Dan’. And I tried, again, to make her understand, ‘No, Mum, he’s just growing up’ – love manifests differently in a nine-year-old who’s playing BattleSomething on the iPad than it does in a bright and wriggling toddler. But it just kept coming, expanding all the time, ‘You’ve turned him against me, Dan, you’ve made him reject me because you’re jealous, Dan, you’re trying to get him to hate me’. And the worst thing of all was that she’d completely done it to herself – with the depression, with the worry, with the constant overthinking. And it hurt her so much. And, of course, it all started again, the screaming, the hate, the accusations, the going round telling everyone about my latest crime, about how I’d turned her beloved grandson against her because I was ‘jealous’. And I tried to explain, over and over again, ‘Mum, it’s in your head, don’t do this to yourself’, but she wouldn’t listen. She would bawl at me that ‘didn’t know what I was talking about, I didn’t understand’. My Mother adored Isaac, she was a third parent to him as his father and I both worked – she loved him more than anything and we wouldn’t have got through the first five years of his life without her… and watching her doubt and undermine her love for him was absolutely heart-breaking. She needed his love so much, and yet she convinced herself that it wasn’t there.

But, horrific though that is, that’s all just the background. There’s the whole of the rest of the story to go.

Starting with the imagined ‘rejection’, my Mother’s depression found a thousand ways to blame and judge me. It found a thousand things that I could be accused of, a thousand wrongs that I had done her, and that she could carry round to her friends and tell them that she ‘didn’t have a daughter, she’d never had a daughter’ – and hence get the gentleness and compassion that she so craved. She told everyone, for years, that she ‘gave me money’, that she ‘kept’ me, that I ‘kept boys’, that she ‘gave me money to give to boys’… not a word of which is actually true. (I didn’t as much as get pocket money as a child). Yes, there were cheques Christmas and birthday, and the occasional twenty quid in the meantime – and everyone was very generous when Isaac was born – but she never, ever ‘gave me money’, and I’ve never ‘given money to boys’. There were a too many boyfriends, I know that, and I did spend rather a long time unemployed after I left Uni – so I can only guess that, to my Daily Mail-reading, Conservative-voting Mother, the scruffy boys and the unemployment marked both them and me as the worst kind of scrounger. (It’s ironic, though, that the unemployment taught me a very valuable lesson: I’ve been church mouse poor almost all my life and I’ve learned to ruthlessly managed my income. I’ve never lived outside my means. I’ve never not paid a bill. I’ve never run up debt, I’ve never had a massive overdraft or overspent on a credit card. Nothing. Tooting my own here for a minute (and probably because I’ve always been so poor): I manage money better than anyone else I know). In similar vein, she was forever telling people that she ‘followed me round with a cheque book’, implying that she scuttled along behind me in some ‘ungrateful teen’ comedy sketch. But this too isn’t true – it’s a twisting of the endless shopping trips that were her preferred social outlet. These shared trips were very much her choice of activity and I would go with her (of course I would) and she would buy me clothes – because she wanted to. And then, two days later, she would turn on me, and then would come the screaming and the accusations. Again. (And when I asked her to stop buying me things, of course, I was ungrateful and selfish and I ‘always looked so dreadful’ but I’m coming to that).

I was not the daughter my Mother wanted – that was very apparent. She was exceptionally beautiful, her personal style and elegance were astonishing, even right up to her death. And she was a fighter, by the Gods, she was a fighter – despite her crippling mental horrors, she put her ‘face on’, and she went to work, every single day of her life. No calling in sick for Jan Ware, no giving up, no excuses for unemployment or slacking. She did take tablets – Valium, Prozac – in order to cope, but there’s no shame in accepting help, and cope she bloody well did. Even now, I stand in awe of her sheer stubbornness.

But, as our shopping trips illustrated, my Mother wanted a girl. A little girl, a girly girl. A girl with whom she could share her interests – and what parent doesn’t want that, on some level? Her interests were her make up, her clothes, her elegance, her impeccable sense of style and colour, her utterly flawless appearance. Her sense of a thing’s worth (always) was all about how it looked. And this need for perfection was both armour and compulsion – it extended to her home, her furniture, her garden, her car, the stairs up to her flat… and, of course, to me. I should have been a real daughter, I should have enjoyed shopping. I should have been able to share her love of clothes, and colours, and cosmetics, and all things stylish and ladylike. I should have found myself a gorgeous husband (‘a man to take of me’) and/or a top job. I should have been flawless – a proper upper-middle class wife, entertaining my friends with dinner and who knows what else… and then, maybe, she would have been proud of me.

But no. I was shabby and bit feckless. I dated scruffy long-hairs. I joined a re-enactment group. I thumped people with swords. I role-played ‘til the wee small hours. I liked fantasy, and science fiction – things she just couldn’t comprehend. In her flat, I found a letter that she’d written to my grandmother and never sent (one of hundreds) in which she raged about how much she hated my lifestyle, my appearance, my hobbies, my friends. ‘I can’t bear to think of her with swords and shields’, it said, and ‘she buys SCIENCE FICTION BOOKS!!!!’ (Huge capitals and underlined many times). And yes, I did buy books – at fifty pence a time from the stall on Norwich Market. But this baffles me still – why was it so wrong for her Literature graduate daughter to ‘waste her money’ on books? Not booze, not drugs, not hookers, not gambling – but books?

The answer, I think, is in how much she detested my appearance – the money I spent on books, I should have been spending on clothes. On making myself flawless. A girl. She used to go on and on at me, ‘You look so awful, Dan, must you go out like that, Dan, I’m not going out with you in that, Dan, put on something of mine.’ ‘Oh, Dan, your skin, oh, Dan, your hair’. ‘Why don’t you wear make-up, Dan, you would look so much nicer’. ‘Smile, Dan, put some colour in your cheeks’. And it wasn’t only clothes; I was ‘cold’, ‘distant’, ‘butch’, ‘masculine’. I remember one occasion where we were shopping (again) in Croydon, and she was so humiliated by my leather jacket (Bones’s leather jacket, and after he’d died) that she actually insisted on walking five paces behind me. And it was all more evidence, of course, as to how utterly I’d disappointed her, and how I wasn’t a real daughter. After all – surely a real daughter would be exactly whom their parent needed them to be?

I wish, now, that I could talk to her – the leather jacket stuff was just armour, and it was exactly like hers. They might have looked very different on the outside, but they did the same job. I wish she hadn’t been so hypercritical – and so afraid. I wish I could have offered her the reassurance she so desperately craved – and that that she would have accepted it from me. I wish that she could have loved me for what I was, rather than hating me for what I wasn’t – and constantly trying to coax/bribe me to change. (And then blaming herself because I was a ‘failure’). I did, once, try to explain to her that I felt more boy than girl – but she just threw it back in my face, again, and told me (and everyone else, as ever) that I was just ‘aggressive’ and ‘unpleasant’, and that I could be so pretty ‘if I just tried’.

The sad thing of about all of this – my Mother was a single parent (and I know how hard that is) and I was an only child. We needed each other, of course we did. We were both alone, and we should have had a better relationship. But I tried, that’s the silly thing. In my own possibly clumsy way, I tried to reach her, I tried to do things for her, I tried so hard… but it was just impossible. We would have a lovely Christmas together (just for example) and two days later, the Brain Weasels would have struck, and she’d be telling me how awful it had been, and much she’d hated it. (After all, it wasn’t perfect). And it was just exhausting.

Stay with me, we’re reaching the end.

For many years, I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand why she was so utterly determined to interpret everything I did as a personal attack, and to hate me even more. Why she insisted on constantly telling everyone these horrendous stories about ‘the terrible things’ that I’d done. I wasn’t terrible, was I? Okay, so I wasn’t what she wanted – I wasn’t successful, or beautiful, or a wonderfully giggly and outgoing girly… but my sins were pretty tame, all things considered. They were scruffy clothes and unemployment and gaming and re-enactment and science fiction. (And the sad thing was that, even in my mid-twenties when I started working, got a flat, and got my shit together – the accusations didn’t stop. Like ‘rejecting’ her, they were completely, obsessively ingrained by then, and they never faded or went away).

After she died, I had to sort out her home – and I found her diaries, which was one of the horrible, tragic and upsetting things I’ve ever done. I’d seen my Mother’s spite and rage and anger in my life, been on the wrong end of some of it – but even then, I’d had no idea what it was really like, what actually lived in her head. Under that poor, gentle, beautiful woman, with all her tragic stories of how terrible her life, there was a boiling, blistering, bubbling volcano of pure and utter venom, of the kind of spite and vitriol that I can’t even find words to outline. It was shocking, and deeply disturbing – and oddly, it made me respect her strength all the more. How had she been able to cope, to get through each day, with all that in her head? Her hatred saturated everything – not just me. It was her mother, and her family, and her friends, and my father, and the man who fitted the double glazing when I was ten, and the people who parked their cars in the wrong spaces, and the company that re-upholstered her suite, and the microwave she had to send back to John Lewis, and the local council, and on, and on, and on, for years… In her diaries, her need – craving – for perfection became a need for complete control (sometimes this happens with deeply insecure people, I guess it makes them feel safe). If something didn’t live up to her demands – if it wasn’t exactly what she wanted – she would hate and judge and despise and reject it.

And maybe that was what happened to me.

And yet, her diaries also helped me understand. I’ve suffered from the same black depression – the rage, the hate, the need to lash out and blame. It’s taken me a while to sort through all of this, but I know now – all that hatred was just a part of her illness, and not her fault. We all have Brain Weasels, those little monsters that whisper to you in the small hours of the morning – ‘She rejected you’, ‘She turned your grandson against you’, ‘She’ll never amount to anything’ – but, if we’re wise, we learn to recognise them for what they are. We do our best not to listen. But my poor Mother never learned that, she never defeated them and they ruled her thoughts and her life. They ruled how she saw me (and many other things), and they conjured me, year by year, layer by layer, whisper by whisper, into the monster that she displayed to her friends. (She once asked my friend if I went out and left my baby Isaac in the evenings, went ‘to the pub’ and just abandoned him – exactly the kind of bonkers thing that the Brain Weasels put in your head). But I know now. I know what the world looks like when you struggle with the blackest of dogs, I know how your view of people can warp when all you can feel is rage and pain, and I know how terrible and lonely it is to stand in that place. I’ve been fortunate – I’ve come out the other side – but my Mother never could. Her diaries were full of such hurt and such fear – the monsters never left her, and they never, ever gave her any peace.

And so, to the end. I did my best to take care of my Mother when she was sick and dying, of course I did, and it was a pretty harrowing time. And it wasn’t because ‘I wanted her money’ (as she screamed at me constantly, and as she told everyone else), it was because I wanted her to see me as myself, to finally understand who I was, if you like. I wanted her to realise that I was ‘Danie’ and not the failed ‘Daniella’, to respect that I was my own person, and to accept me, warts and all. To really be my Mum. I wanted, before she finally went, to help her lose all that hate and fear and pain and judgement, and all that unfulfilled need for love.

Sadly, I failed. My Mother died still unable to forgive or trust me, still hating and judging me for misdemeanours that had only ever existed in her head.

And that’s been a very, very hard thing to deal with.

Footnote: this is not a story that expects a reaction. I haven’t posted this to get supportive responses, though I do hope that others going through the same thing can take some insight and comfort. I’ve needed to let this out, to try and express this stuff fairly and honestly, for a very long time. I’m no saint, but my Mother did me terrible disservice in the things that she went round telling everybody, and I’ve been wanting to set the record straight – but I had to do so fairly, and without anger. And that’s taken a while.

Depression is a terrible thing – and it’s also very selfish. When your world is darkness, it’s hard to see anything else – you become completely immersed in your own pain, and in the struggle just to get though the day. I know that, I’ve been there. It took my darkness for me to comprehend my Mother’s, and now, two and half years after her death, I wish I could just tell her.


Looking forward to heading to BristolCon tomorrow – and will be taking my son with me. He’ll be grumpy as all fuck (he wanted to be at MCM) and it’s his first outing into our little world… so look out, this may get colourful!

Find me, not behind a trading table (hurrah!), but hanging out with friends and on a couple of excellently topical panels. There’s a Mass Signing (why does that always sound so Catholic?) at 2:00pm, and I’ll be moderating an ‘Out Of This World’ line-up at 5:00pm in Room 1 – join Jen Williams, Gareth Powell, Paul McAuley and Dolly Garland as they tell us where they’d <really> like to go on holiday. Then at 6:00pm, also in Room 1, it’s all about the delights of cross-genre fiction with Jo Lindsay Walton, Elizabeth Jones, Jason Whittle and Nick Hembry.

Sadly the one place I won’t be is in the bar in evening, as we’ll be doing the loooonng haul home on the train, but, in my resolution that I <must> get to more Cons next year, BristolCon is just the best warm-up!

Tales of Battle

In the midst of finishing the second Artifice book (called ‘The Last Daughter’) and trying to drag my thoughts together to start something new, a couple of pieces of battle-happy news…

Kristell Ink’s Fight Like A Girl anthology, the book that started with a random tweet and then snowballed into the kind of all-female awesomeness that really pisses off (some) Doctor Who fans, has been shortlisted for The BFS Award for Best Anthology. Delighted to  have a story in the book, and chuffed as fuck that it’s done so well. Seriously, whoathunkit?

Plus a story in the forthcoming Legends III Anthology from NewCon Press, published next year for the David Gemmell Awards. I didn’t know David personally, but he was a guest of the business many times – and he always looks like such a wonderful character. I remember reading Legend, and hope I’ve written something suitably battle-worthy.

And more short story news coming soon, with a little luck!

A Shoutout to All the Writers who have Kids…

A shout out to all the writers who have kids…

Who can’t sit for ten minutes without a snotty nose or a spilled drink – just when they’re in the middle of a critical scene.

Who can’t gather any pace or drama because Billy has just shaved the cat.

Who keep shouting, “Turn it DOWN, I’m trying to work’.

Who feel guilty because they should be doing something with your child/ren – even though they’re going to the park as soon as they’ve finished this chapter.

Who won’t finish the chapter before they go to the park.

Who carefully explain that they have to set aside time as they have a deadline next week – knowing that it will never happen.

Who allocate time to the child/ren first – and are then so bloody worn out that they can’t sentence a string together

Who know that the child/ren is/are just acting up because you’ve told them you ‘need an hour’…

…but who still has to drop everything to deal with PlayStation rage, upset over a text message, or ‘MUUUUUM this is broken’…

…or who know that something is going on – but are utterly determined NOT to get up as the little buggers are just doing it for attention.

And who thank every God when the little horror/s go out for an hour and they can FINALLY work out how the characters out of that PARTICULAR tangle.

Yeah, I know. So here’s a *fistbump* to all the Mums and Dads who write.

(I’ve had peace for two days, and have racked up five thousand words and a completed short story. Which I’m really rather pleased with. The best thing about writing and kids? It’s the relief of the quiet… and the MASSVE HEADWAY you make when they’re out on manoeuvres!


One Month: No Booze

I like a glass of wine. I like a couple of glasses of wine. And gin, gin is good. G&T on the balcony of a weekend evening. Or when I’m tired, or stressed. Or as a cure of anxiety. Or…

Yeah, so I’m not necking Gordon’s by the bottle and I don’t (usually) drink on school nights. But still: time to quit.

And after one month of no booze (and honestly, I haven’t even wanted it), I’ve sussed that all of that pious health-fad stuff is actually true.

  • Feeling better (and I mean ‘singing in the shower and scaring the neighbours’ better)
  • Sleeping better (along with some very wacky dreams)
  • MUCH more energy (physical and mental, really WANT to get on and do things)
  • Better memory (yeah, that’s kind of double-edged)
  • Higher intelligence (seriously)
  • Higher levels of creativity (VERY important!)
  • I’ve lost weight (half a stone, or thereabouts)
  • And saved money

But there are other things, more subtle things, that you don’t realise.

  • Less junk food (why do booze and crisps and CHEESE always go together?)
  • More time in the gym (you might as well, as there’s no wine)
  • Better sense of humour (including at yourself, and that’s always a win)
  • More even temper (cats are chuffed about this)
  • Easier to relax (bizarre, but true)
  • No lingering wisps of anxiety or depression (been replaced by a suffocating cloud of smug)
  • And yes, even my periods are less moodswingy and painful

So… I may have to turn in my membership of The Order of St. Ethelbert the Inebriate, but I’m hoping my good brethren and sistren will forgive my blasphemy. The spirits are willing, but the flesh, as you grow older, just can’t handle it anymore.

By tsong on deviantart


The Story of Bones

I met Bones at a Vike show at Tonbridge Castle in 1991. One thing led another, and in the way of these things, we fell in love. He came to live with me in Norwich, in the days when five of us shared a post-student house on the now-legendary Sigismund Road. Those were heydays: days of Vikings, and role-playing, and battle practices in the park. Days of innocence and wonder and drinking too much cider round campfires in the darkness.

Bones – Sigismind Road, 1991

They were also the days when we made our lifelong friends, those people who, twenty-five years later, are still family.

Bones was a character, a casualty, a joker and gentleman. He’d been a patched member of a local motorcycle club, still had the ‘FTW’ tattooed on his forearm, but had fallen prey to depression and alcohol. His life in Norwich was a new start for him. He did his level best to quit the Special Brew and to ease back on the booze, and certainty, it seemed to be successful.

Occasionally, inevitably, there were flashes of darkness. Bones had five years on the rest of us, and I always got the impression he’d walked places we hadn’t yet discovered – certainly not in our early twenties.

So – Tintagel. May 1992. A long way from Norwich, but the first show Bones’s group, the Northland Mercenaries, had put on in many years. So, of course we went. Loaded into the back of the van, camping kit and all, we drove overnight and we set up tents in the breaking dawn of the Cornish coast. And it was perfect, exactly the kind of community and brotherhood that welcomed and supported us all. That first evening, as the dusk closed in, we walked down the path to Rocky Valley, looking at the old tin mines and the spiral patterns in the stone – it was a magical place, and we sat in wonder on the edges of the Atlantic. Bones wanted to climb around the rocks, and no-one batted an eyelid – that was just the kind of thing he did.

I remember we joked about it: ‘Don’t fall in that, mate, I’m not coming in after you!’

The second night, Monday 2nd May, a date that will remain with me for the rest of my life, we walked down the path, again. We looked at the tin mines and the spiral, again. We sat by the seething ocean, again, and Bones wanted to climb around the rocks, again. The fact that he was wearing a monks’ habit and pair of army boots didn’t really register. We were at a show, and kit was still worn in the evenings.

After a while, we started to wonder where he’d gone. We waited. We waited some more. Then we got up and started to look for him. Cliffs. Campsite, shops, toilets, pub. No Bones. Not anywhere.

And this is point where my memory gets very blurred…

I remember the darkness falling and the whole camp mobilising for a search party. I remember voices in the dark, I remember the police, and the sound of the coastguard helicopter, and the lights. In all the melee, I remember someone – Graham? Jon? – saying to me, very quietly, ‘I think you should know, they’re looking for a body’. I get chills thinking about it, even now. I remember sitting by the fire, numb, disbelieving. I remember the bad taste jokes – because that was how we dealt with it. I remember people sitting with me, and lots and lots more cider. And I remember waking up in the tent Bones and I had shared, all his stuff scattered round me, and knowing, and hoping…

But they hadn’t found him.

They never did.

Bones was never seen again. No body, no explanation, no nothing. Common sense says that climbing round the edges of the Atlantic, half-pissed and wearing a monks’ habit, was not the brightest move in the world, and that he must have drowned. I remember Graham telling me that he probably hit his head as he went in – hence his lungs filled with water and the body sank…

But we will never know.

Bones had his issues. Did he fall – or did he jump? That kind of depression, it’s not impossible. Or is he, even now, serving tea in the Tintagel Tea Rooms somewhere, and riding out with the local Sons of Cornwall?

He left us with a hole. But he also left us with his sense of humour, and his craziness, and a powerful community that’s lasted two and half decades. He left us with a certain dent in the fuel tank of his old Yamaha, and the archetypal bikers’ denim cut-down that I still have in my wardrobe. For those of you that have read Ecko, Lugan was Bones’s CyberPunk character, complete with roll-ups, +5 Pocket of Eternal Dog-Ends, and the FTW tattoo on his forearm.

But most of all, he left us with a question, unanswered and ever unanswerable…

I like to think that, wherever he ended up, he saw the funny side.

Bones – Rocky Valley, Tintagel, 1992.

Picture courtesy of Graham, and taken about 15 minutes before Bones disappeared. And there’s just something about the faraway look…